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Kennedy to host Bionic Brouhaha II: The Second One on Jan. 10

When Dean Kamen founded FIRST, or For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, he had a goal of developing ways to inspire students in engineering and technology fields.

“Kids are idolizing celebrities and sports stars and so few of them can go pro in their field, so we want to show them where else they can go pro,” Kennedy Catholic senior Laurel Higham said of Kamen’s message.

The Bionic Gaels were born.

Four years ago, Higham and her father Joseph formed the Bionic Gaels robotics club. The team has experienced a myriad of successes over the years and after hosting a robotics qualifying event last year, they will be doing so again this year when Bionic Brouhaha II: The Second One comes to Kennedy Catholic on Saturday, Jan. 10.

Twenty-four teams, more than 200 students and some 100 parents and volunteers will descend on Kennedy Catholic in Somers for the last of five qualifying tournaments in the Hudson Valley.

“Everyone is very enthusiastic about being a big community,” said Laurel, a Kennedy senior, who is the captain of the Bionic Gaels. “You don’t want to create any hard feelings between teams.”

Being the 5602 Bionic Gaels are hosting the event, they will not be competing. But Kennedy Catholic has another team, the 9541 Xeno Gaels, which consists of four students and was formed in October. This will be their first event as a team.

Awards are not just given out for the performance of a team’s robot. Teams are judged on their team spirit, fundraising, community service and how well you designed your robot.

“It’s not just about the robot,” Laurel said. “There’s a greater message to it.”

Saturday’s Empire NY FTC Mid-Hudson Qualifying Tournament will showcase robots from teams across the Hudson Valley, Long Island, upstate New York, Buffalo, New Jersey and Connecticut. Six squads will advance to the Championship event at Pace University on Sunday, Feb. 8.

“Nationally and regionally, our robotics program has been experiencing explosive growth,” said Joseph Higham. “We’re expecting 200-250 of Westchester’s brightest students along with an additional 100-150 parents, coaches, mentors and volunteers.”

Laurel estimates that the team practices 8-12 hours per week. In their most recent competition, the Bionic Gaels placed 13th of 36 teams and won the Think award at the Robo-CATastrophe Core Qualifier in Columbia, New Jersey on Nov. 16. They will compete at the New Jersey State Championships in March and it is the first time they’ve advanced past the qualifying round in the New Jersey tournament.

Teams will begin making preliminary adjustments at 9 a.m., with opening ceremonies to follow around 10:30 a.m.

The 5602 Bionic Gaels consist of senior captain Laurel Higham, senior Maggie Caridi, junior Austin Cohen, senior Susanna Cohen, senior Sarah Dollard, junior Silvana Acierno, junior Matt Beisswenger, junior Gabby Formoso, senior Jordan Hopkins, junior Max Jarcho, junior Skylar Rom and sophomore Danny Caridi.

The 9541 Xeno Gaels consist of freshman Rachel Beisswenger, junior Al Cantarella, freshman Sean Dollard and sophomore Chris Hanrahan.

For more information on the event, click here.





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